When Eli Dahlin and Ezra Wicks bought the space of the restaurant they worked at in February 2020, the pandemic put their plans on hold like it did many other establishments.
After slow-moving construction throughout 2020, they were finally able to open the doors of their new natural wine bar, Light Sleeper, in December that year. Dahlin and Wicks were involved in the natural wine movement for over a decade, making these practices the forefront of the establishment.
“[The movement] attempts to inject a type of accountability and authenticity into the wine world that the food world has been enjoying for some time, whether it’s through farm-to-table movements, heirloom movements, grass-fed beef, or free-range eggs,” says Dahlin, co-owner and executive chef at Light Sleeper. “Our goals are to apply the same standards to wine that we apply to food.”
Situated in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of the Emerald City, the building offers unique space for events of all kinds. Inside, all the interior’s surfaces are living surfaces, meaning they’re designed to wear and age over time. Most are wood, and some is reclaimed wood from the former restaurant the building housed—like their tabletops being made from the original bar.
Part of the building kept its original construction, including 25-foot ceilings with original wood and beams. The windows facing southeast allows for light to shine through in the morning, offering a warm ambiance and dancing shadows as the sun crosses the sky.
All Light Sleeper’s venue space is available for full buyouts, including the outdoor courtyard. While it’s shared with other businesses in the vicinity, Light Sleeper can reserve and host events for its guests. With a firepit and seating or standing arrangements for any size event, the courtyard makes for a cozy spot for groups.
Inside, seating is available for about 40 people between tables, booths, and the bar. When opting for a standing-sitting hybrid arrangement, the wine bar can comfortably host about 60 and as high as 80. Buyouts include food and beverage service with pre-determined minimums and menus as discussed with clients.
The menu at Light Sleeper features a host of wines and small plates to soothe any appetite. Spirits and a small cocktail list are offered, as well as an array of about 25 glass-pour wines ranging from $8 to $18 each. Dahlin notes that they try to steer away from ‘mainstream’ varieties like chardonnays, pinot gris, and merlots.
“We want people to learn more about the broader wine world, so more of our offerings are, while familiar, often not the usual fare,” he says.
With an emphasis on underrepresented wines, orange-colored wines have also found their way on the menus. Orange wines result from a style of wine making that predates most other white wine styles, Dahlin explains—put more simply, they’re white wines made like red wines. The skin of the grapes is included in the fermentation process to some degree, and that skin dyes the wine an orange, rusty amber color. Dahlin notes that some grapes dye the wine less, and some dye the wine a pink color.
Light Sleeper’s bottle list is longer, offering about two pages of varieties ranging from $30 to $200 per bottle. Their food selection is diverse as well, with no particular style or culture in mind.
“We might use curry in a dish, but it won’t be a curry dish … we’d be using the flavors of curry [to create something else],” Dahlin explains. “We might use lemongrass, but it won’t be a Thai dish.”
Most food items on the menu are below $14, and Dahlin says guests tend to make a meal out of three to five of the small plate options.